A few weeks ago, I got in touch with Sofia Magdits, a great friend of mine, to talk about the beautiful connection she has with nature and how she conveys into her art. While talking, she told me that she was just about to exhibit a new work inspired by the sea - for International Oceans Day. I was thrilled, knowing that Sofia - a multidisciplinary artist - had something very special and powerful to show the world! Exhibiting the work in physical form in Düsseldorf, a German city far away from the sea, where Sofia lives.
We met again virtually - she being in Düsseldorf and myself in Barcelona - to talk about how this whole experience that has been for her been - creating and preparing her first solo exhibition titled 'Are we feeling blue?'.
Lea: Sofia, first of all - congratulations on the exhibition! I have enjoyed it from afar and loved what you have created and shared. Please tell us more about 'Are we feeling blue?'.
Sofia: I wanted to make a portrait about the sea, an ode to the sea. It is a piece that evolved a lot along the way: I started by making this super big loom - 2.5 metres high, by 1.7 metres wide - and then it occurred to me to project on it. I wanted to create more movement and superimpose scenes of the real sea with my abstract, weaved sea. So I put together different video clips with different sea scenes; some calm and beautiful, followed by other scenes of sea pollution or industrial fishing boats.
L: What things influenced this change? From wanting to just show the loom and then deciding to add other artistic media, like audio and video.
S: I started the loom in January, but it was in April that it occurred to me to put up a projection - that's when I saw the documentary Seaspiracy and thought: if I'm making this weaving, showing my love of the sea, why not connect that love with care? Then there was a talk with the people who were part of Seaspiracy where one person said, "you can't care for something you don't love," and that stuck with me. At the beginning I also wanted to put together information about different NGOs where to donate and informative websites - but I decided to focus on the sentimental, to create awareness from love and feelings - from there you can start and do more research on your own.
L - How was the public's reaction?
S - Unbelievable! I am very happy. I imagined the experience as a portal where one is teleported to the beach...to the sea. There was a girl from Bulgaria who said to me, "wow, this looks just like where I grew up!" Then another lady, who had just spent a month in Greece, told me she felt like she was still on holidays. There were also different reactions to the audio; some people were super relaxed and others were bothered by it.
L - Do you think this feeling of discomfort that you mentioned came from the people who were more aware of these 'layers' that the sea has? The different realities it carries - both natural issues and the interventions that humans are creating.
S: I think so. My parents have always told me that you have to respect the sea. As for the layers, that's exactly what I wanted to achieve - you have the loom which is physically the first layer, then you have the layer of the projection on the weaving - that generates a third layer which is the shadow behind the weaving. The technique I use for weaving creates little gaps between colours and when it comes to projecting the video these gaps create very nice shadows on the back, that I was told it looked like a sky of stars, or the reflection of light on water. These shadows also moved with the video.
L: This experience for has been about sharing that affection you have towards the sea, and also receiving it from the public. Any particular story that has surprised you?
S: There was a guy from Bavaria (in southern Germany) who had never been to the sea, but still felt like he was on a lake by the area where he came from. Other people saw mountains, rivers, lakes... It's interesting how you always associate things, from what the ones you already know.
A perception that also struck me for being so beautiful, is that they saw it as an altar to the god of the sea - god of nature.
L : To me it reminds me of the landscapes of the Peruvian coast: deserted and rocky, yet at the same time abundant. Were you inspired by a specific environment?
S: Not necessarily - I wanted to make it universal because it is a universal topic - but there is of course an unconscious influence of the sea in Lima, my hometown. During the exhibition there were different conversations, where people would ask me about Lima and the Peruvian coast - or the history and textile tradition of Peru - this is when I would tell them about the Paracas textiles. There were also conversations about other beaches/seas of the world and textile art in general, and its revaluation in the art world. At the end I had to write down all the comments and ideas in a notebook so I wouldn't forget them. It was over all a great and enriching exchange!